The Sentinel Tactical Response Vehicle
Inside IAG’s Ultimate Armored Commuter Truck
Most folks know the presidential limousine, a GMC TopKick–based combination of Cadillac parts affectionately known as The Beast, is designed to give the commander in chief the optimum level of protection while traveling. Loaded with advanced communication, armor plating, night-vision capability, run-flat tires, and special defense countermeasures, the highly modified vehicle is a fortress on wheels. But the president isn’t the only one who needs added security while spanning the globe. World leaders, politicians, diplomats, corporate executives, and even celebrities find themselves occasionally needing a protective shield from the world around them.
And since most terrorist threats and kidnappings occur on the road, a custom-built, armored vehicle provides a measure of security that far exceeds anything normally available from the showroom. Many companies around the world respond to that need, but we had the opportunity to visit International Armored Group (IAG) in St. Augustine, Florida, for a firsthand look at how its crew goes about building a fortress on wheels.
IAG has been making security vehicles for the last 17 years, including fully armored, SWAT-style vehicles like The Sentinel featured in this report. Described as a Tactical Response Vehicle, it is based on a Ford F-550 chassis -- but little of the original Ford remains.
Purpose-built armored vehicles require major alterations to the chassis, suspension, brakes, and engine in order to compensate for the additional weight. The Sentinel’s adaptive suspension uses heavy-duty coil springs, reservoir shocks, and a huge stabilizer bar up front along with dual steering stabilizers. In the rear, heavy-duty leaf springs, reservoir shocks, and a Panhard bar combine to ensure responsive handling in the heavyweight truck. The brakes and tires are also scaled up to compensate for the truck’s extra weight using beadlock rims and run-flat inserts that are good for 50 miles even when deflated.
Although horsepower upgrades are typically specified by the customer, the 6.7L Power Stroke turbodiesel in The Sentinel has been upgraded with standard diesel performance products that include a cold-air intake, programmer, and exhaust. Quick acceleration is crucial, since a fast-moving vehicle reduces the odds of rounds hitting the same place.
The Sentinel’s body is capable of withstanding multiple hits from 7.62x51mm armorpiercing rounds and .50-caliber machine gun rounds, thanks to its military-grade ballistic steel and glass. The IAG build crew uses lasercutting devices and CNC machines to trim individual sections of armor that form the body of the vehicle. The armor is designed in such a way that the vehicle’s center of gravity remains low for stability while the external armor plates are angled to deflect bullets and explosives. Transparent armor (also known as ballistic glass) guarantees a 360-degree field of vision for the team inside, and their view is augmented with four external cameras that feed a large split-screen monitor positioned above the windshield.
The air-conditioned truck has five doors and a roof-mounted escape hatch, with seating for 10 and the capability of squeezing in an additional four individuals. The interior can also accommodate the Avatar Series robot in the rear hatch (a SWAT team favorite).
When things really get hot, there are 12 gun ports available for a quick response to whatever problems may arise. Doors have a three-point locking mechanism, which makes them about as secure as the average bank vault. All Sentinel door openings are equipped with 360-degree overlaps that act as bullet-catchers. Everything on the truck has been given the heavy-duty protection treatment, including the dual batteries, ECU, fuel tank, radiator, and even the tailpipes -- which are equipped with their own laser-cut grilles to prevent plugging the exhaust.
The engine has its own fire suppression system, and there are additional fire extinguishers inside. Finally, when getting home means bulldozing your way through an unfriendly situation, the barrierbuster attachment mounted externally on the passenger-side, rear quarter panel can be quickly attached to the front bumper, giving the crew inside The Sentinel that extra measure of (un)friendly persuasion! A 16.5-ton electric winch adds another level of versatility.
Thinking about getting an armored vehicle of your own? It’s not that easy, and it’s definitely not a matter of “simply having the money” to buy one. Purchases are carefully monitored using an elaborate vetting process to ensure the bad guys never make it to the approved list.
|The Sentinel Tactical Response Vehicle|
|ENGINE:||Ford 6.7L Power Stroke turbodiesel|
|TRANSMISSION:||6R140 six-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION:||Heavy-duty adaptive suspension with reservoir shocks, antiroll bar, and Panhard bar|
|STEERING:||Ford power steering with heavy-duty aftermarket dual steering stabilizers|
|AXLE CONFIGURATION:||Dana 60 (front), Dana 80 (rear)|
|CURB WEIGHT:||17,500 pounds|
|MAXIMUM SPEED:||62 mph, restricted due to tires|
|TIRES:||12.5R20 MPT-80 Continental Run Flats mounted on heavy-duty steel rims with beadlocks and run-flat inserts|
|FUEL CAPACITY:||68 gallons|
|CRUISING RANGE:||Approximately 500 miles|
|RECOVERY WINCH:||16.5-ton electric winch|